Fauci warns Americans to brace for ‘surge upon a surge’ in coronavirus cases after Thanksgiving holiday
He urged travelers to be safe when returning from holiday travels, encouraging them to quarantine if possible and to get tested
The US should be prepared to see a surge on top of a surge in cases of Covid-19 in the coming weeks as millions of travelers return after the Thanksgiving holiday, said top scientist Dr Anthony Fauci. He warned that there will “almost certainly” be an uptick as the country gets into the colder weeks of the winter and as it approaches the Christmas season.
“When you have the kind of inflection that we have, it doesn’t all of a sudden turn around like that. So clearly in the next few weeks, we’re going to have the same sort of thing. And perhaps even two or three weeks down the line, we may see a surge upon a surge. We don’t want to frighten people, but that’s just the reality. We said that these things would happen as we got into the cold weather and as we began traveling, and they’ve happened. It’s going to happen again,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) told ABC’s “This Week.”
Dr Fauci emphasized that he does not expect to see relaxation in current public health recommendations. “I cannot see, all of a sudden, a relaxation of the kinds of recommendations or restrictions because we're getting into colder weather, and in an even larger holiday season as people travel to come back and forth for Christmas,” he noted.
The US has recorded more than 13 million coronavirus cases and over 266,830 Americans have died in the Covid-19 pandemic so far. As of November 29, 93,219 Americans were hospitalized with the virus, according to the Covid-19 tracking project. Despite a November 19 warning from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encouraging Americans not to travel during Thanksgiving, 640,721 people traveled through airports in the six days (November 20 to November 25) ahead of Thanksgiving. Another 128,875 boarded flights on November 26.
Dr Fauci urged travelers to be safe when returning back from holiday travels, encouraging them to quarantine if possible and to get tested. “The travel that has been done has been done. As people go back, we want to urge them If they’ve been in situations outside of the family setting, in which they really don’t know the level of exposure to be really careful...you’ve really got to understand the importance of trying to prevent further spread and further surge. That may be when you go back to where you came from, if it’s possible to quarantine yourself for a period of time, or even get tested to make sure that you’re not bringing in infection back to another place,” he stressed.
Dr Fauci further cautioned, “Having said that, we have to be careful now because there almost certainly is going to be an uptick because of what has happened with the travel. We understand the importance of families getting together. And it’s just something that we have to deal with that we likely will have an increase in cases.”
The infectious disease expert also said it was “not too late” to help curb the virus transmission by following proven mitigation steps such as wearing masks, socially distancing, and avoiding large groups. He told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that for now, “we are going to have to make decisions as a nation, state, city, and family that we are in a very difficult time, and we’re going to have to do the kinds of restrictions of things we would have liked to have done, particularly in this holiday season, because we’re entering into what’s really a precarious situation.”
Dr Fauci explained that he is worried about the nation’s hospital and staff capacity, noting that he received calls from colleagues across the country “almost pleading for advice” amid the “significant stresses on the hospital and healthcare delivery systems” at individual locations. While he explicitly stated he was not calling for a national lockdown, Dr Fauci said at the local level, Americans could ‘blunt’ the surge’s effects on the hospital system by taking measures “short of locking down so we don’t precipitate the necessity of locking down.”
Dr Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, echoed his concerns. “We’re entering this post-Thanksgiving surge with three, four and 10 times as much disease across the country. And so that’s what worries us the most. We saw what happened post Memorial Day. Now we are deeply worried about what could happen post-Thanksgiving because of the number of cases, 25,000 versus 180,000 a day...It looked like things were starting to improve in our Northern Plains states. And now with Thanksgiving, we're worried that all of that will be reversed,” she emphasized on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Dr Birx noted that young Americans who gathered during the holiday need to be tested about five to 10 days later. “You need to assume that you’re infected and not go near your grandparents and aunts and others without a mask. We’re really asking families to even mask indoors if they chose to gather during Thanksgiving and others went across the country or even into the next state. And if you’re over 65 or you have comorbidities and you gathered at Thanksgiving, if you develop any symptoms, you need to be tested immediately,” she urged.
Other experts agreed that the coming weeks would be difficult, especially since so many traveled over the holiday. “I want to be straight with the American people. It is going to get worse over the next several weeks but the actions we take in the next several days will determine how bad it is,” US surgeon general Jerome Adams told Fox News.
Dr Celine Gounder, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board, issued a dire warning. “We fully expect that in about a week or two after Thanksgiving we will see an increase in cases first, then about a week or two later you’ll start to see an increase in hospitalizations, and then another week or two after that you'll start to see deaths,” she told CBS News.
Since it can take up to 14 days to develop symptoms after exposure to Covid-19, Gounder stressed that “unfortunately, that means that many people who celebrated with family, with friends over Thanksgiving will find themselves in the hospital, in ICUs over Christmas and New Years.”